We could tell you what was in that update but then we would have to terminate your process

Subject: General Tech | August 24, 2015 - 03:17 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, windows 10

The more we learn about Windows as a Service the less we seem to know.  Already many have discovered that a fresh install with license from an upgraded Windows install is not as simple as it sounded, the license has far more to do with your current hardware than the OS license you once purchased.  Now it seems that figuring out what updates are being installed on your computer will also be obfuscated, where before you could see the number of the relevant Knowledge Base article now you will simply receive generically labelled updates.  This should worry home users as it will make it difficult to avoid Windows Updates with known compatibility issues and terrify any businesses which were considering moving to Windows 10 as releasing untested patches into a production environment is verboten and this makes the testing process more, not less difficult.

Windows Insiders may actually end up knowing more about the updates than the regular users who will only hear details of a limited number of updates.  Build 10525 has recently been released to insiders on the Fast Release ring with Microsoft's Gabe Aul went into detail about what changes were made in this new build, as well as the new issues present in this version. Build 10512 of Windows 10 Mobile was also just recently released for those few souls running on Windows Mobile and testing the newest incarnation of the OS.  The Register did try out the new version, you can read about their experiences here.

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"The Register asked Microsoft for clarification on the policy after the company issued a new cumulative update for Windows 10 and refused to say what it does other than to say it offered “improvements to enhance the functionality of Windows 10.”"

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Source: The Register

Microsoft Publishes Build 10525 to Fast Ring Insiders

Subject: General Tech | August 18, 2015 - 08:24 PM |
Tagged: windows 10, microsoft

Almost exactly a month ago, Windows 10 Build 10240 was released to both Fast and Slow. This build served as the milestone for an everyperson's operating system, and it gave OEMs something to validate drivers and software against. According to BuildFeed, the first known branches at that build number were compiled on July 9th.

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Today, Windows Insiders on the Fast ring will receive Build 10525 when they next perform a Windows Update. This build was first compiled last week on August 12th, and it represents the first published milestone of the TH2 branch. It contains two new (advertised) features: extra color options for Windows UI elements and improvements to Windows 10 memory management.

I'll talk about Memory Manager first.

As Windows 10 builds were released, there was one where I noticed the System process begun to use a significant amount of RAM -- a whole gigabyte or two. I figured that this was a memory leak that would be fixed in a later build, so I put up with it. Some time later, I noticed that its usage would actually go up and down as I open or close applications. It was also never “fixed” before release.

It turns out that it was an intended feature.

When operating systems decide that a chunk of memory is unlikely to be used, they tend to push them to the hard drive. This could be an application that has been minimized for a while, or portions that were displaced by a big, RAM-hungry program. You will often see this when you switch programs. Sometimes, there's a program that's already open, albeit minimized, but it still takes a few seconds to pop up. This behavior is often because it was pushed out of system memory and Windows (or Mac, Linux, and so forth) wasn't prepared to abruptly fetch it again.

Now, system memory is big and cheap, and Windows is being installed on devices with small banks of flash storage and relatively fast processors. Microsoft now believes that it makes sense to cram old chunks of memory into a container, which resides in RAM, that is compressed (as opposed to just dumping it onto permanent storage). This occurs in the system process, which explains why it tends to inflate when you're doing a lot of things at once.

Build 10525 tweaks this feature a bit in undescribed ways. I could imagine that Microsoft cut development in the public branches to make it robust for Windows 10's launch. They now have an opportunity to point Insiders to the less tested branches.

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I think this is interesting, and could make a lot of sense if they successfully manage data into their most efficient storage locations. I do notice that System tends to get large even when a lot of RAM is still available. For instance, I have 55% of my memory unallocated at this point, but System is about 1.2 GB large. There could be very good reasons for this, which might be something that my operating system would know better than I, but it might also be a sign that it's slightly over-aggressive. Maybe my system could benefit from a big, contiguous chunk of available memory, or maybe my PC is being unreasonably taxed. Who knows.

The other major feature is color management. While the three displayed toggles are available in 10240, the user is apparently now able to adjust more colors. Without installing 10525, I cannot figure out what those changes are, but Microsoft asserts that they're there.

If you register as a Windows Insider Fast Ring user, you can now receive 10525.

Source: Microsoft

Running a small Win7 Domain and having bandwidth issues today?

Subject: General Tech | August 10, 2015 - 12:58 PM |
Tagged: windows 10, oops, microsoft

Microsoft promised that Windows 10 would not be pushed out to computers on a Domain, or at least allow you to block the update; a claim which has turned out to be slightly less than accurate.  If you are running a Windows 7 Domain which still relies Microsoft update as opposed to WSUS you may have noticed some serious traffic spikes this morning.  That is because some, perhaps all, of your computers are slurping down the 3GB Windows 10 update.  Check the Register for links to Microsoft and consider blocking Microsoft Update on your firewall until this has been sorted, unless you like a slow network and living dangerously.

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"The problem is affecting domain-attached Windows 7 PCs not signed up to Windows Server Update Services (WSUS) for patches and updates, but looking for a Microsoft update instead."

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Source: The Register

Microsoft Rolls Out Windows SDK for Build 10240

Subject: General Tech | July 30, 2015 - 03:58 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, windows, windows 10, visual studio

July 29th started the official roll-out of Windows 10 and, for Windows Insiders, was pretty much “Wednesday”. We already had everything of relevance by Monday on the OS side of things, and not even a security patch landed in our Windows Update queue. It was not the only thing that Microsoft launched today, though. While Visual Studio 2015 was released last week, it said that it was not compatible with pre-10240 SDKs and would delete them during the installation process and you will be unable to develop SDK apps until the one for 10240 launches on July 29th.

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So, coincident with the OS release, Microsoft finally published the 10240 Windows SDK. Now, if you run Visual Studio 2015's installer, it will install the new SDK directly. You do not need to download it from a secondary source. These headers and libraries are placed in the “Windows Kits” folder of your 32-bit Program Files directory... ironically, without deleting the previous SDKs that it threatened to, when run before July 29th. Go figure.

Also, even though DirectX 12 has been in the Windows SDK for quite some time, Microsoft has, also, finally released code examples and they put them on their GitHub page. These samples teach you how to do things like draw a triangle, manage DirectX 11-era contexts alongside DirectX 12 ones in your application, and create an n-body gravity simulation. They welcome pull requests for fixes, although they might appreciate new samples as well.

Source: Microsoft

RTM? Satya don't need no steenking RTM

Subject: General Tech | July 28, 2015 - 12:41 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, windows 10

With not many hours left until launch, Windows 10 is still very obviously a service that is sill being serviced and the pressure is on at Microsoft.  NVIDIA users have discovered that having a clearly drawn display is not something they are likely to have by launch day, much to the amusement of us AMD users.  Until this week those used to uninstalling programs with the Control Panel as opposed to the new procedure of heading to Settings -> System -> Apps & features will find they are punished for their temerity with a Windows Explorer crash, certainly an interesting choice to reinforce the new behaviour.  Less common, though still frequent enough for The Register to make note of and for a patch to be released yesterday is a similar crash if you were to disable an active network connection manually.

Surface users may have noticed new firmware arriving to mitigate some of the compatibility issues Windows 10 testers have used, though there is not that much time left to test them en masse, the fact that the tablets were built by Microsoft should help ensure the updates are stable and useful.  Not so much for other tablets as The Register shows in this story.

Creating a new version of an OS is a non-trivial task and for the most part Windows 10 should be ready for a consumer release this week.  Microsoft have changed a lot about the look and function of Windows and made even more changes to their business model and licensing.  The real hurdle is Enterprise, the huge customer base that ignored Windows 8(.x) and to a lesser extent Windows 7.  With the stability and functionality of the OS already in question, will the poorly communicated changes to the licensing models of Windows 10 mean that we will once again see extremely slow or non-existent adoption in Enterprise and even SMB for that matter?

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"Build 10240, which was released to the Windows Insider program two weeks ago, is widely considered to be the "release to manufacturing" (RTM) build, even though Redmond itself says the RTM concept doesn't apply in its brave new world of Windows as a Service."

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Source: The Register

Don't want Win10 patches? We have a patch for that

Subject: General Tech | July 27, 2015 - 01:24 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, windows 10

Microsoft's decision to push out updates to non-enterprise Windows 10 without user intervention or even notification has been a bit of a hot topic recently.  While those of us who have been supporting machines for a while have all seen a bad Windows update or 10 which render machines unusable, however we have also seen machines over 100 updates behind that are completely riddled with malware, trojans and other nasties which would have been blocked if those updates had been applied.

Whichever side of that debate you fall on, thanks to the nosy reporters at The Register you now can have a choice.  They've posted a link to the "Show or hide updates" troubleshooter package in this recent article, a tool from Microsoft which would allow you to hide certain updates before they were installed and ensure that they are not installed in the future.  Patch Tuesday is gone but there will still be people keeping track of which updates are released so that if you encounter an issue you can roll back and hide that update.  Of course, that assumes you enabled System Restore, which is has been disabled by default in Windows 10.

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lifted from securityaffairs.co

"MICROSOFT HAS QUIETLY released a tool to stop Windows 10 downloading and installing everything it finds in Windows Update."

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Source: The Register

Microsoft Office shows up in Google Drive

Subject: General Tech | July 22, 2015 - 12:38 PM |
Tagged: google, google drive, microsoft, office

As has happened recently with Dropbox, Box and Apple iCloud, Google Drive has adopted the Microsoft Office API which was released not to long ago, bringing Office Suite compatibility to their cloud.  As anyone who has actually tried it knows, the compatibility between Google's applications and Microsoft's Office Suite was more theory than fact.  This new plug-in will allow you to save Office files on your Google Drive and open and edit them from within your browser, as long as you are not using the Office 2016 preview which is not compatible. If this interests you then follow the links from The Inquirer to learn more.

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"GOOGLE HAS BECOME the latest big player to integrate with rival Microsoft's Office suite."

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Source: The Inquirer

Windows 10 One-Minute Ad Launches

Subject: Editorial | July 20, 2015 - 08:28 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, windows, windows 10

As we've been saying for several months now, Windows 10 is coming in a handful of days. Naturally, Microsoft is trickling out information and marketing material leading up to it. Some of the interesting ones we can talk about. I'd normally consider a one-minute TV spot as “not very interesting”, and it probably isn't for our audience, but there was one thing that I wanted to say about it.

The ad looks through an international cast of children, and of course an adorable puppy, describing how their technology life will evolve with Windows 10. The premise is that the OS will empower everything that they do, and grow with them because of automatic updates. Of course, young children and a puppy does a lot to sell a consumer product in itself. The video currently has over 200,000 views on YouTube with an almost 20:1 like-to-dislike ratio.

But the part that interested me was the quote “for them, every screen is meant to be touched”.

In a direct way, yes. Once you provide someone with a touch screen, especially a young child, they instantly want to touch every screen in their life. This has actually led to schools refusing to install touch-based all-in-one PCs because they were worried about kids ruining the non-touch monitors.

It is odd that Microsoft would focus on “touch” in the ad, though. This leads me to the point that I want to bring up. Nowhere in the ad is “familiar” or similar verbiage used. Each example is touch, stylus, or voice. You would think that Microsoft wants to draw in the audience who avoided Windows 8.x, and yet the tone sounds identical to what they've been saying for years.

It's just a TV spot, but it sounds a bit out of tune with the last year.

Cortana for Android Invite-Only Beta Launches

Subject: Mobile | July 19, 2015 - 06:43 PM |
Tagged: Android, microsoft, windows, windows 10, cortana

When it graduated from high school, Microsoft was voted “least likely to have an open relationship with itself”. Well who's laughing now, member of the Yearbook Committee? You thought you were so clever, sitting in the back of the late bus for students in extra-curricular activities, giggling as you doodled in your Five Star binder. Even though they always hogged the Windows seat, maybe they would have opened it up for a little fresh air in the Summer time had you taken the time to ask.

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Image Credit: Ars Technica

While Cortana is first and foremost a Windows 10 feature, it will appear on iOS and Android as well. Peter Bright of Ars Technica got in on the pre-release, invite-only beta and walked through the features. He notes that, while many have complained about crashes, his experienced wasn't marred with stability issues. On the other hand, because Cortana is not as deeply integrated into the operating system, despite the laundry list of permissions it requests, he expects that most users looking for a digital assistant will look to Google Now on their Android devices, even if they use Cortana on Windows 10.

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Image Credit: Ars Technica

There really wasn't a whole lot of note in the article though, at least in my opinion. There are a few interesting screenshots, but it basically looks like someone grafted the Cortana fly-out menu from Windows 10 onto a fullscreen mobile device. Even though I already saw the similarities in the Windows 10 Technical Previews, it is funny to see it so explicit.

No release date has been set for Cortana on Android or iOS.

Source: Ars Technica

Windows 10 Supported Until 2020, Extended Until 2025

Subject: General Tech | July 17, 2015 - 09:16 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, windows 10

Microsoft announced the upgrade strategy of Windows 10 in their January consumer press conference. If the promotion is claimed within the first year, the new operating system would be a free upgrade to users of Windows 7 and Windows 8.x “for the supported lifetime of the device”. The internet combined “the first year” with “for the supported lifetime of the device” to speculate that Microsoft would charge a license or subscription from then on.

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The bandaids will keep coming until 2020 (features) or 2025 (security)

Now, less than two weeks before launch, Microsoft has released an official statement on the matter. Windows 10 will be supported until 2020 with extended support reaching out to 2025.

This does not mean that every device will be supported until then, though. In order to receive new updates, the user needs to install every update prior to that update, because they are cumulative. If a device is incompatible with an update, and the affected manufacturer is not willing to fix the problem, then Microsoft will not make a special support branch just for you.

But if an OEM has stopped supporting a device, yet Microsoft updates don't break anything, then you can still receive updates for Microsoft. Again, the clause is just for the case where Microsoft's updates are incompatible with your device -- it is not Microsoft's responsibility to keep giving you updates for the manufacturer's problems until the OS gets end-of-lifed.

This does lead to some concerns, though. Imagine that Microsoft pushes a build which disables developer sideloading and Win32 support, locking Windows 10 down to a Windows RT state. If you are even capable of blocking that update, Microsoft will likely not allow you to receive security patches. On the other hand, I don't exactly blame Microsoft for branching the operating system for each individual milestone. Doing something like killing support for Win32 would also be pretty brazen, although it looked like Windows 8.x was on that trajectory when it relegated the Desktop as an “app”... and one which all Win32 software required to survive.

So freedom advocates will have some things to think about, but those concerned about “free as in beer” can sleep a little easier. They will continue updating you for as long as the hardware supports it, until at least 2020 for features (at least 2025 for security). Beyond that time, it depends on whether Microsoft will charge for upgrades to whatever the next version is. Will it be a free milestone (think service pack)? Or will it be classified as Windows 11 with an upgrade or subscription fee? Who knows.

Source: ZDnet